Lately I’ve been reading Outline of Pyrrhonism by Sextus Empiricus. Sextus collects the arguments for Skepticism as practiced by ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. Since the notion of “skepticism” seems to play some small role here, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what Sextus means by it.
For anyone interested in whether RMNS can create stuff, I recommend a relatively new book, Arrival of the Fittest. I just bought the Kindle version an haven’t finished, but it has a lot to say about how goldilocks mutations occur.
Much later Mung writes:
Reminds me of petrushka, who is always plugging Andreas Wagner’s Arrival of the Fittest, but will never post an OP on it for discussion.
So I’ve taken the hint and bought the book at last. I can see why people have recommended it. Continue reading
Anyone want to defend these laws?
Anyone surprised at the number of Western countries that still have blasphemy laws on the books?
ETA: Unlike “William J. Murray” of The Skeptical Zone, William J. Murray is not on record advocating torture.
There’s much more to the ecosystem of far-right “news” outlets than Breitbart and Infowars. Most of you are aware of that by now. But it seems that few of you are aware of how William J. Murray, the putatively reverend chairman of Religious Freedom Coalition, contributes to the affair. Here he is, in his natural element, showing his true colors (apart from his coif). I didn’t go digging for this video. It comes from the “About” page of Murray’s nonprofit. Here’s a sample:
Europe has been importing hundreds of thousands of Muslims because the women of Europe don’t want to have children. They want to play. They want to have fun. They want to go on long vacations. They want to have money. … They don’t believe that propagation of the species is the most important thing that they’re here for.
You cannot fully grasp the significance this performance without watching the commercial at 20:30.
… and yet speaks powerfully to the dangers that we face. This is something that the Europeans in the crowd should not miss (and I don’t know how often they see news of Sunday-morning television in the States). But there’s more than that to my decision to post the video. We presently have a Chrumptian propaganda piece, “Trump Hysteria,” on the front page of The Skeptical Zone. The author, William J. Murray, goes so far in his support of Trump as to endorse torture (see the comments section). John McCain in fact suffered torture as a prisoner in North Vietnam, and has opposed torture steadfastly in his political career. And, perhaps more to the point, he’s anything but hysterical. It is McCain’s caution and restraint that make his remarks chilling.
A review in the New Yorker of three new books:
The Enigma of Reason, by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber
The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach
Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us, by Jack and Sara Gorman
Last week, George Church talked at the school where I take part-time evening classes. I provide a link to that talk. He talked about re-engineered codons (something I’m grateful to Rumraket for introducing me to), stem cell research, human animal chimeras, aging therapies, human genome re-engineering, and just a little bit about ENCODE. Though I have ethical concerns about human/animal chimeras, and human genome re-engineering (like what happens if you mess up), Church goes into the technologies and raises questions as to what our world may look like in the not too distant future. Not that I’m trying to make a point about ID or God by linking this video, but it shows how rapidly we may be forced to deal with certain issues.
I personally don’t have too much problem with GMO foods. After all, my YEC friend John Sanford created the gene gun through which a large fraction of genetically engineered crops on the planet were made at one time. But one thing that bothers me is genetically engineered bacteria. Church discussed super bacteria created for research applications. I can imagine an accident where germs are created accidentally that become really hard to kill and we basically have an apocalypse. Maybe that will be the fulfillment of prophecy by Jesus, “there will be famines and pestilence”.
Here is the video (with Francis Collins speaking at the start):
Here is a description of the talk:
Both Mung and KeithS have asked me to weigh in on the question of whether the existence of evil counts as a good argument against Christianity, as KeithS has maintained in a recent post, so I shall oblige.
It is important to understand that the problem of evil is not an argument against the existence of God or gods, but against what KeithS calls the Christian God (actually, the God of classical theism), Who is supposed to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. KeithS succinctly formulates the problem as follows:
Let’s say I claim that an omniGod named Frank exists — omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Suppose I also claim that Frank regards seahorses as the absolute height of evil. The world contains a lot of seahorses, and Frank, being omnipotent, has the power to wipe them off the face of the earth. Why doesn’t he? Why does he countenance a world full of seahorses?
KeithS emphasizes that it is not enough for the Christian to show that God is on balance benevolent. Rather, the Christian needs to defend the claim that God is omnibenevolent:
The Christian claim is that God is omnibenevolent — as benevolent as it is logically possible to be. Finding that the items on the “good” side of the ledger outweigh those on the “bad” side — if that were the case — would not establish God’s omnibenevolence at all.
Finally, KeithS provides his own take on the problem of evil:
The problem of evil remains as much of a problem as ever for Christians. Yet there are obvious solutions to the problem that fit the evidence and are perfectly reasonable: a) accept that God doesn’t exist, or b) accept that God isn’t omnipotent, or c) accept that God isn’t perfectly benevolent. Despite the availability of these obvious solutions, most Christians will choose to cling to a view of God that has long since been falsified.
He even suggests how he would resolve the problem if he were a theist (emphasis mine – VJT):
Suppose God hates evil and suffering but is too weak to defeat them, at least at the moment. Then any such instances can be explained by God’s weakness.
It addresses the problem of evil without sacrificing theism. I’m amazed that more theists don’t seize on this sort of resolution. They’re too greedy in their theology, too reluctant to give up the omnis.
I think KeithS is onto something here. In fact, I’d like to ditch the conventional Christian views of God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence. It’s time for an overhaul.
We are all too familiar with the schtick of certain posters. I’d like to know what they hope to achieve by pounding their limited collection of nails year in year out.
One could summarise the entire output of some in a dozen or so sentences. They KNOW that no-one will answer their challenges to their satisfaction. They KNOW (rather, they think they know) that this is because their challenges cut right to the heart of the matter, and evolutionary theory (“which evolutionary theory?”, a poster mutters for the thousandth time) is not an arena of explanation that will satisfy them. So, once you have satisfied yourself that this is the case, why keep buzzing against that glass like a trapped house-fly?